I’ve never had a pregnancy test. Being a man, this shouldn’t generally come as a surprise. I have, however, peed on a strip and waited for the colour to change more times than I care to remember. This behaviour might seem odd for someone who is not the owner of a uterus, but for the keto enthusiast, it’s as normal as putting the kettle on in the morning. A keto strip that turns dark purple means a higher level of ketones, which means a happier ketard. As I left the house for a restaurant all those years ago having just tested my keto blood level, I was pleased with the darkness of my strip, but I was full of fear and trepidation for the upcoming meal.
I hadn’t started a ketogenic diet to lose weight, at that point I was struggling with Crohn’s disease, and was only just beginning to learn about the ins and outs of nutrition. When you’re sick, you’re desperate, and I was willing to believe the hype about keto if there was even any shred of truth in it. As far as the websites I was looking at went, Keto not only helped you effortlessly decimate your love handles, it cured all diseases too. Including, apparently, my own. It was the saviour I had been looking for until the waiting staff brought some food out that night. The sourdough bread tested my resolve right off the bat, but by the time the gratin dauphinoise came out, it was all over. So long keto. Like many of my relationships, you lasted fewer than two weeks.
I shouldn’t get too emotionally invested in this kind of thing, but keto devotees piss me off. I can’t remember the number of times that someone has come to me for help with their diet, only to tell me that it has to be ketogenic. When I ask them why, they either get angry and defensive, or I never hear from them again. That seems to be the thing; outside of a cultish community, there doesn’t seem to be a good answer as to why anyone would do the diet, and literally no one I have ever asked has simply said it’s because they like it, which is as legit a reason as I can think of. Instead of asking again and running the risk of being given the keto cold shoulder, I’ll dig into the research and see for myself if there’s any one single benefit of shunning carbs for fat loss and muscle gain.
Let’s start by having a look at some of the Keto claims to see if they actually stand up in the real world.
Fat doesn’t make you fat, it’s the carbs
Keto logic, or lack thereof, is captured nicely in the ludicrous infographic above. Eat as much fat as you like and a life of shredded abs and super health awaits, but even think about carbs and your body will start to secrete the evil insulin causing you to look like Jabba The Hut in a matter of days. Just keep insulin at bay and everything will be ok, right? Or is chowing down a tonne of pig fat fried in butter a truly ketarded way to lose fat?
- In a study by Hall et al, researchers looked at 4 weeks on two fat loss diets with the same Calories; one containing 300g of carbs, and the other a super low carb ketogenic diet. First, the people in the study started on the higher carb diet, and then switched to keto. Although during the ketogenic diet insulin levels dropped massively, fat loss actually slowed compared to the higher carbs.
- Even with no insulin floating round in your bloodstream to allegedly mess things up, fat will still make you fat. Want to know what happens if you mainline fat straight into your veins? So did Evans et al, and the answer is you get fat of course. Your body couldn’t give a shit about insulin when you’re consuming a truckload of cals from fat.
Next time you decide to start off your keto weight loss diet with a burger containing bacon, egg, drizzled in hollandaise, and served up in an avocado fat bomb bun; consider that it’s Calories that count for weight loss, not how low your insulin is. Starting the day with 1,000kcal worth of fatty yumminess might sound like fun but as a tactic for fat loss where energy into energy out rules the day, it just dumb.
Keto suppresses appetite
The biggest problem with any diet is hunger. Period. Whatever diet you’re on, as you get leaner you will get hungry, and if your goal is to get very lean, you’ll feel heightened hunger all the time. It’s a fact of life. Unless you talk to the keto crowd of course, who will tell you that ketogenic dieting is done totally hunger free.
While it is a fact that most people spontaneously eat fewer Calories when switching to a keto diet, that doesn’t mean that ketosis has some form of special magic. It’s much more likely that people are eating less sugary junk, and more protein.
- Protein makes you feel full independent of the carb content of the diet
- For example, a study by Weigle et al, people ate 441 fewer Calories when they upped their protein intake but kept carbs moderate.
- Mcauley et al compared a keto diet, a high protein moderate carb diet, and the third diet with a low protein intake to see who ate the least. People on both the high protein keto diet and the high protein moderate carb diets ate 500 fewer Calories.
Eating fewer pastries and getting some protein down you seems to be just as effective as going full keto, regardless of what they might tell you.
Ketogenic diets turn you into a genius
Another claim by the keto crew is an apparent improvement in clarity and cognition. The internet is full of stories of improved brain powers after ditching the carbs.
- In a study by Wing et al, people were put on keto and non-keto weight loss diets. People in both groups lost weight, but the keto group got worse results in a test that requires higher order mental processing and flexibility
- In a study on long-term keto-adaptation , cognition didn’t decline, but there were zero improvements.
So much for brain gains.
Keto is great for building muscle
Ok, so it seems that keto isn’t all it cracked up to be for a number of reasons, but what about muscle gain? Keto loving bros across the land claim that they didn’t see any gains until carbs were shunned in favour of post-workout fat bombs.
A popular study usually used as evidence of the strength-producing effects of keto is by Paoli el al. Elite gymnasts followed a ketogenic diet, and gained muscle and lost fat. This normally leads the no carb enthusiasts to state that keto is the one best thing since sliced bread to make you jacked. On a closer look at the study, the gymnast’s protein intake during their normal diet averaged out at 83g, but during keto, they ate 200g.
Rather than ditching carbs, it’s far more likely that taking their protein intake from a seriously measly amount to something around bodybuilder levels was what made the difference.
Ketogenic diets work the same as any other diet where you consume fewer Calories than you burn. If you hate carbs and don’t mind your friends thinking you’re a dick whenever you refuse to go out for pizza, then feel free to fill your boots.
Otherwise, consider the multitude of other ways to lose weight, be less restrictive, and retain a bit of joy in your life as you get leaner.
Want a way to fit pizza and dessert into your diet each week while still losing fat? Download the Ultimate Flexible Fasting System to lose fat easier than ever before.